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Gastroenterology. 1998 Aug;115(2):421-32.

Identification, culture, and characterization of pancreatic stellate cells in rats and humans.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry, University Hospital Ulm, Ulm, Germany.



Until now, the basic matrix-producing cell type responsible for pancreas fibrosis has not been identified. In this report, retinoid-containing pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) in rat and human pancreas are described, and morphological and biochemical similarities to hepatic stellate cells are shown.


Electron and immunofluorescence microscopy (collagen types I and III, fibronectin, laminin, alpha-actin, and desmin) was performed using pancreatic tissue and cultured PSCs. Extracellular matrix synthesis was shown using quantitative immunoassay and Northern blot analysis.


PSCs are located in interlobular areas and in interacinar regions. Early primary cultured PSCs contain retinol and fatty acid retinyl-esters. Addition of retinol to passaged cells resulted in retinol uptake and esterification. During primary culture, the cells changed from a quiescent fat-storing phenotype to a highly synthetic myofibroblast-like cell expressing iso-alpha-smooth muscle actin (>90%) and desmin (20%-40%) and showing strong positive staining with antibodies to collagen types I and III, fibronectin, and laminin. As determined on protein and messenger RNA level, serum growth factors stimulated the synthesis of collagen type I and fibronectin.


The identification of PSCs, particularly in fibrotic areas, and the similarities of these cells to hepatic stellate cells suggest that PSCs participate in the development of pancreas fibrosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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